board software communication

Board Software Communication Vs. Emailing Board Documents

These days, most boards are making the choice to go paperless. While some opt for centralized communication through the use of board software, others have simply stuck to email for their needs.

In fact, according to a 2014 Thomson-Reuters study, approximately 43% of boards were still emailing their sensitive board documents.

While email prevents added costs to board operations, it also poses many potential downfalls and risks.

Email isn’t secure.

You’ve seen the headlines. Email hacks are a dime a dozen these days. Not long ago, we wrote a blog about the infamous Salesforce leak, which originated with an email from Colin Powell.

Because they sent their board documents via email, their hypothetical plans for 14 different company acquisitions became public knowledge.

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How to Create Better Board Agendas

Better Board AgendasThe agenda and the board book have been the centerpieces of board meetings for decades. While the board book provides important information and reporting, the agenda acts as the guide for the course of the board meeting.

It may seem like nothing more than a simple list, but the agenda wields serious influence over a board meeting’s progression.

You’re probably thinking, how can a basic list be improved? But we’re here to say that it can be done!

Does this agenda item involve everyone?

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often boards include agenda items that should actually be discussed in smaller committees or one-on-one outside of the board meeting. Boardroom time should be focused on group-oriented tasks and decision-making in order to get the most collaborative value out of your gathering.

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Four Questions About Board Surveys

The New York Stock Exchange requires listed companies to participate in some form of annual self-evaluation, so many organizations already have a board surveys in place. But for some of these companies, board self-assessments are met with an attitude of obligation instead of embracing the potential benefits of a well-executed survey. For other smaller companies, this practice has simply been overlooked in the past.
board surveys

However, there are many reasons why all boards should view annual self-assessments as an outstanding resource for bettering their overall functionality. For example:

  • Board surveys can help identify group strengths and weaknesses.
  • Willingness to self-assess sets the tone for the organization at large; it shows that board members are taking their roles seriously by reviewing their own performances through a critical lens.
  • Discussing board members’ responsibilities and goals can create a more unified and collaborative working environment.
  • Tracking year-over-year changes in board members’ responses can provide meaningful insight into a changing board landscape.

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Looking for Signs of Board Success

signs of board successSigns of board success can take any number of shapes, and the bottom line for measuring a board’s accomplishments will vary from organization to organization. But when it comes down to overall effectiveness, there are some tried and true signs you can look for to better understand your board’s overall functionality:

Your board’s structure is clear and encourages efficiency

Boards vary in size and in structure, but experienced board member and Stanford GSB lecturer David Dodson has found one universal factor that he believes is a sign that boards are on the right track.

He writes that all boards—even small ones—need a clear, outlined structure for how meetings will be held, how often board members must be in attendance, and what is expected from them both inside and outside of board meetings. Dodson insists, “My strongest advice to a CEO or a board member is to put that scaffolding in place.”
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All Boards Need Tech Expertise

boards need tech expertiseAccording to Jean-Louis Bravard at Harvard Business Review, it’s simple: “All boards need a technology expert.” Bravard investigated the banking industry in England—an industry that relies heavily on technology—and found that only one bank had a tech expert serving on their board of directors.

He insists that many major banking leaders in the U.K. need huge tech overhauls but are afraid of the risks—both financially and from a data safety perspective. Bravard argues, “Only a multi-year, board-level sponsored effort can ensure a responsible IT overhaul. But without IT expertise at the director level, how can a board truly make an educated decision?”

To put it simply, get someone who works in high-level IT on your board, and do it quickly—especially if you want to follow a long term, adaptable IT strategy.

For Dambisa Moyo, an international economist, things are a little less cut and dry. She asserts, “The industry structure in which a business operates should also influence how a board assesses technology effects.” She follows that up with three viable paths forward for bringing tech knowledge to a board setting. The first is to “delegate technology tasks to management.”

In other words, let the responsibility of technological evolution stay in-house with a CIO or a CTO. The second option is to draw from the expertise of independent advice. This could mean hiring an outside IT consultant or forming a group of advisers that report to the board. The final option is the one we’ve already heard: creating a seat on the board for a “techie.”

She encourages boards to take a long look at their particular industry to weigh the pros and cons for each of these options.
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Boardroom Spring Cleaning

While some of our neighbors to the north are still dealing with the occasional snow flurry, down here in Birmingham we’re settling into a lovely spring. The flowers are blooming, the sunshine is splendid, and it’s just the right time for some good old-fashioned spring cleaning.
boardroom spring cleaning

While you’re on a cleaning kick, why not transfer some of that energy into your boardroom? No, we’re not talking about vacuuming the carpets or dusting the shelves: we’re talking about sparking efficiency and productivity!

Now is a great time to organize some of your board operations and make the move towards a tidier board experience overall. Here’s our step-by-step spring cleaning guide:

Clean up your communications

Let’s start with the issue that’s nearest and dearest to our Directorpoint heart: simplified and streamlined communications. Currently, your board of directors might connect via any number of methods: email, hard copy mail, phone calls, txts, and more. What if you could incorporate all of those touch points into a single, easy to understand hub?

Well, the great news is that you can!
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Three Ways to Liven Up Board Meetings

Board of directors meetings are notoriously long—sometimes lasting upwards of 4 or 5 hours for boards that meet less frequently. Meanwhile, in the age of tech, we’re also being told we have attention spans shorter than a goldfish.
liven up board meetings

So how do we liven up board meetings to help the collaborative and innovative nature of the boardroom thrive?

Incorporate movement

This is a strategy that elementary school teachers have been employing for decades. When they see their students growing antsy or bored, they encourage kids to get up and dance around or do some group exercises.

Then, they refocus the students to the task at hand, or they incorporate the movement into the actual task.

OK, so maybe we’re not going to see board members dancing around the boardroom, but the principle behind this tactic is a good one: the happier and looser our bodies are, the easier it is for our minds to focus. So how do we translate it?

It can be as simple as employing a series of really regular bathroom breaks or as involved as incorporating some stretching elements into the actual meetings. Either way, board members need time to decompress physically and mentally. Marathon-ing through a 4-hour meeting probably won’t lead to top-notch attention and involvement.
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Better Boards: Avoid Data Inundation

If you’ve ever been to a board of directors meeting, you know that they are stuffed to the gills with information: documents for review, presentations, votes, financial reports, and so much more. These meetings are not for the faint of heart; board members spend a large amount of time poring over the latest company statistics.
Avoid Data Inundation

They have to be prepared to dive into a sea of data and information while maintaining a “big picture” mindset in order to help steer their organization into a successful future.

Most board members will tell you that data inundation is a major nonstarter and can make their role at your organization more difficult.

As one Business Insider columnist writes, “Boards are there to strategically direct management for success and growth—overwhelming them with data will get them in the weeds and off the strategic path.” In other words, if boards spend the majority of their meeting time reviewing past facts and figures, it hampers their ability to spend time in strategic brainstorming.

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Corporate Secretaries in the Digital Age

For as long as boards of directors have existed, corporate secretaries (sometimes referred to simply as board secretaries) have played a significant role. In fact, a recent increase in regulatory legislation has expanded and re-emphasized the role of the corporate secretary—making them more pivotal than ever to the overall success of the board. Simply put, a corporate secretaries are the record keepers for boards of directors.
corporate secretaries

They keep meeting minutes, oversee the agenda, and manage historical documentation for the board. Sometimes, based on specific needs at an organization, boards will assign other duties to their corporate secretary, too.

Being an excellent corporate secretary is no easy feat—it is definitely one of the most demanding positions on an executive board.

As the corporate world has moved farther and farther into the digital age, the landscape of the boardroom has progressed to embrace technological advances. Once upon a time, boards relied heavily on printed board packets and agendas—a practice that is closely linked with the duties of corporate secretaries.

With the introduction of the Internet and email, boards were able to communicate more quickly and efficiently.

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Strategies for Nurturing Junior Boards

Over the past decade, the number of junior boards serving nonprofit organizations has risen dramatically. According to Guidestar, the largest nonprofit information site, statistics show that 74% of millennial professionals are eager to get involved with charitable causes and networking within their community.
nurturing junior boards

Furthermore, 84% of millennials made a charitable donation in the past year. These statistics bode well for nonprofit executives who are striving to fundraise during recovery economic times.

Harnessing the creativity and enthusiasm of younger leaders has been a boon to the nonprofit community. The investment in junior boards has helped many charitable causes connect with and access a younger donor base.

Millennials have gained from these partnerships, too; they’ve gotten the chance to prove their capabilities as networkers and fundraisers while also advancing their personal connections in the business community.

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